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    The Greatest Showman in Art
by Charlie Finch
Vanessa Beecroft
at Deitch Projects
Laurie Simmons and Peter Wheelwright
Kaleidoscope House
installation view at Deitch Projects
Wang Du
at Deitch Projects
Wang Du
Wang Du
Wang Du
The beautiful buzz of contemporary auction action brought out a blissful young throng to New York's Chelsea art district on a mid-November Saturday night.

Here were Cindy Sherman's deconstructed West (and East) Coast women at Metro Pictures.

There were wispy balloon penii by Sue Williams at 303. A dozen other West 20s openings were also nibbled in the moveable feast of arties.

And the greatest showman in art found himself alone in SoHo on a Saturday night: a 7:45 p.m. cab ride to the old Friedrich Petzel space on lower Wooster Street found Jeffrey Deitch standing alone before a miraculous new wall-sized photo of Vanessa Beecroft's wedding party. "North of Portofino," Deitch told us.

We were alone before one of the most remarkable images I have ever seen.

"This is her first real piece, Charlie," Jeffrey remarked.

"Every project up to now has been about Vanessa exploring the fake. From now on, her subject is reality."

Jeffrey, we believe you.

Here is the wedding party, uniformly garbed in transparent white. Deitch himself is resplendent.

Vanessa veils her angelic face in pale gauze, offering herself to the Navy Seal inamorato who inspired her series of military pieces, in front of a bas-relief depicting Saint Sebastian.

Vanessa's Old World grandparents dominate the foreground, bracketed by two beautiful teenage girls.

"The one on the right is Vanessa's half-sister," Deitch continued, "Vanessa is creating a calendar piece with photos of her sister for each month. From now on, it's all about the real."

Beecroft could become the real Jeff Koons if she keeps heading in this promising direction.

Deitch had his three SoHo spaces open. Laurie Simmons and Peter Wheelwright's gorgeous dollhouse was debuting in his project space. Yet we strolled empty cobblestones to his Grand Street emporium.

"Everyone's at Cindy Sherman," we reminded him.

Yet Deitch looked satisfied: admiring Wang Du's monumental terra-cotta tableau of a Chinese military parade were two dynamos, supercollectors Mera and Donald Rubell.

"Wang Du was considered the top realist sculptor in the Beijing Academy. Tianamen pushed him over the edge," Jeffrey told us. "His new satiric work was denounced and confiscated. Through the intervention of French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, he was able to get a visa to Paris, where he lives today."

A lithe, tall, exuberant Wang embraced us in full army camouflage, clutching a Rolling Rock, as martial music blasted around us.

Then the happy few danced around the Grand Guignol of one-party ChiCom tyranny.

Fret not for a crowdless Deitch Projects complex -- he's reportedly readying a 29th Street Chelsea space, one city block long, to open next spring.

Will he keep his other spaces, including a huge new Williamsburg private gallery, open, as well?

"Every time I drive by an empty space," Deitch comments, "I want to open a gallery there."

To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, there's a Deitch show born every minute.

Vanessa Beecroft, "VBGDW," Nov. 11-Dec. 12, 2000, at Deitch Projects, 26 Wooster Street, New York, N.Y. 10013.

Laurie Simmons & Peter Wheelwright, "Kaleidoscope House," Nov. 11-Dec. 2, 2000 and Wang Du, "Defile," Nov. 11-Dec. 23, 2000, at Deitch Projects, 76 Grand Street, New York, N.Y. 10013.

CHARLIE FINCH is coauthor of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).